Rev. Paul J Cain
The Peace of the Lord Be with You Always
Holy (Maundy)Thursday, 28 March 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
About the Cover: The Peace of the Lord Be with You Always! This declaration is a blessing, to which faith answers, “Amen.” There was a time in our church body, when the 1982 hymnal was in use, that the response was changed. It turned “The Peace of the Lord be with you always” into a greeting. The congregation said, “And also with you.” That never made sense to me. In teaching why we say the “Amen,” we have an opportunity on this anniversary of the night in which Jesus was betrayed to better understand the Lord’s ever-with-us Peace thanks to Hebrews 10:15–25.
15And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
The witness to the Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah 31, our Old Testament text for Maundy Thursday. This is the passage that gives us the title “New Testament” for the collection of 27 Gospels, history, Letters, and the Revelation recorded as God’s Word by the Lord’s own apostles and evangelists. “Covenant” should be translated “Testament,” for this God’s work, a one-way street of work, if you will, not a cooperation on our part. The Lord does the doing. He makes the testament. He puts His laws in our hearts and writes them on our minds as our conscience. He remembers not our sins and lawless deeds. Therefore: 18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
We are not worthy to receive the Sacrament of the Altar because of our own worthiness. We are guests. Jesus is the host. Jesus is the author of His own Last Will and Testament. He is the owner and giver of all the gifts of our inheritance as Christians. He is our great high priest. When we “draw near” to Him “with a true heart and confess our sins unto God our Father,” we beseech Him “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.”
The final paragraph of the text moves quickly from the confidence of a forgiven sinner steadfast in hope, stirred up to love and good works, regularly gathered by the Lord around His Gifts.
19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Some have the habit of neglecting to meet together. In the Greek, it looks like “synagoguing” with one another. We may have just invented a word. As important as it is to be encouraged by one another—you by me and me by you and all of us by one another—there is a more important component of this meeting tonight, our church meeting tomorrow night, our regular weekly meetings to celebrate Jesus’ birth, death, and Resurrection every Sunday.
“The Peace of the Lord be with you always.” If we merely gathered together to be at peace with one another, it wouldn’t take long for the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh to create cracks in our human-wrought unity. If we merely gathered to sing, I’m sure there would be much more discussion about instrumentation and song choice. If we were merely here to work toward world peace, we would make only as much progress as the United Nations, for we would be dependent upon human understanding, strength, and so-called wisdom.
We are gathered here by the Lord to receive His peace, peace the world cannot give, peace the world cannot understand.
Luther understood the difference between how and where Christ won for you the forgiveness of sins and how and where Christ delivers to you the forgiveness of sins. I’ll ask him to explain: “We treat of the forgiveness of sins in two ways. First, how it is achieved and won. Second, how it is distributed and given to us. Christ has achieved it on the cross, it is true. But he has not distributed or given it on the cross. He has not won it in the supper or sacrament. There he has distributed and given it through the Word, as also in the gospel, where it is preached. He has won it once for all on the cross. But the distribution takes place continuously, before and after, from the beginning to the end of the world. For inasmuch as he had determined once to achieve it, it made no difference to him whether he distributed it before or after, through his Word, as can easily be proved from Scripture. But now there is neither need nor time to do so.
“If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there. Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ, as Dr. Karlstadt trifles, in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross. Therefore, Luther has rightly taught that whoever has a bad conscience from his sins should go to the sacrament and obtain comfort, not because of the bread and wine, not because of the body and blood of Christ, but because of the word which in the sacrament offers, presents, and gives the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for me. Is that not clear enough?”
If you want forgiveness, life, and salvation, you don’t have to go to Jerusalem, travel back in time, or quest for wood from the true cross. Right here, right now, you are in the place the Lord has promised to be to deliver Peace from the Lord that is with you always. As I hold the host, the bread and Body of Christ above the chalice, containing the wine and Blood of Christ, know and be comforted by Jesus’ work for you, for the Peace of the Lord IS with you always. And that is why we say, “Amen.”
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.